If your child is intense and struggles with impulsivity, you might feel like you are constantly scrambling to keep everyone reasonably calm and safe, and “No,” or “Stop!” are always on the tip of your tongue.
Sure, there might be times when your child’s passion and humor are endearing, but thoughts like, “Why do I have such a difficult child?” or, “What do I do with this difficult child?” may seem to cross your mind fairly frequently. And unfortunately, letting yourself label this kiddo as a “difficult child” may actually make things harder.
We’d like to encourage you with a fresh, biblical perspective on intense and impulsive people, who might also have been a challenge as youngsters for their parents thousands of years ago!
God’s Intense, Impulsive Leaders
When God decided which of His children would be key leaders, He avoided the step-in-line, shiny-looking ones. In fact, when we look in scripture at some well-known “Bible heroes,” we see that God chose some serious screw-ups to guide His precious people:
- Moses – Impulsively murdered an Egyptian man and went on the run for 40 years.
- Saul/Paul – Determined to destroy the church at all costs and orchestrated the arrest, persecution, and even murder of Christians.
- Peter – A short-fused poster child for impulsivity. Biggest disciple screw-up. He told Jesus five times that He was wrong and was known for jumping out of the boat and panicking. An NIH article states, “It has been even hypothesized, from descriptions of his disruptive behavior as recorded in the Scriptures, that the Apostle Peter might have had ADHD.”
Two murderers and an ADHD poster child. Not exactly a crew we would expect to give spiritual leadership seminars or impress the religious elite.
Why did God choose them? Because all the intensity and passion behind their “misbehavior” could be re-directed for God’s purposes.
The Impact of Grace
But these men also received more profound grace because they sinned in such terrible ways. Romans 5:20 says, “where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” They absorbed the depth of God’s true character. God’s grace and love infused their souls because it had been lavished on them in their darkest moments.
Paul was the lone defender of the true gospel on the planet at one point, standing up to even the original apostles as they started the slippery slide into legalism (see Galatians 2:11-14). Why was he so passionate about protecting the true gospel of God’s grace? Because he received that outrageous, lavished grace when he was the “chief of sinners.” The worst sinner best understood God’s grace.
Practical Grace for Your Child
So what might these three saints tell us about parenting an intense, impulsive child?
When it goes awry:
- Lavish grace and mercy (not the same as passivity/leniency) with your discipline. Take a breath, remember your love for your child, and connect before you discipline. Respond in a way that communicates the depth of your love for them.
- Let them know it represents God’s grace and love for them. If they’ve really messed up, you can share a time when God loved you at your worst and quote Romans 5:20 “…where sin increased, grace increased all the more.”
- Invite them to make it right or do a do-over when their intensity and impulsivity get the best of them. You can even tell them, “Sometimes our bodies do something unhelpful before our brain has a chance to catch up. When that happens, no problem, just make it right as soon as you can.”
- Look past your child’s mistakes to their great potential in God’s Kingdom. Right now – identify some key gifts your child has. How could you focus on and develop those? Tap into those gifts as you create opportunities to serve.
- Help your child develop their forward-thinking – involve them in planning family activities or the menu for the week.
- Ask questions instead of telling them what to do, for example, “What do you need to gather before you leave for soccer practice?”
- When you enter a situation, ask, “What do we need to consider here that might go off track?” Jim used to teach our lively kids to ask, “What’s the worst thing that might happen here?” so that they considered the safety concerns in a situation.
- Notice and affirm any use of thoughtful wisdom, even if it seems minor. “You were really mad just now, and you used your big, angry words instead of your hands! That helped us solve the problem. You’re learning self-control and safety.”
As you guide your intense, impulsive child, remember their frontal lobe (the seat of wisdom 😉 is “under construction” until at least age 25, even age 35, for people with ADHD! So give yourself plenty of grace for all of you! You’re parenting a child who just might make a significant impact in God’s kingdom as they become anchored in the wonder of God’s amazing grace for them. You may find yourself ditching the label of “difficult child” and, instead, leaning into the “holy opportunity” God has given you!
Do you have a child with EXTRA needs?
Parenting isn’t easy, but when you’ve got an extra INTENSE or SENSITIVE child with big feelings… it’s even harder.
The Sensitive and Intense Kids online course will equip you to parent well, even with these unique kiddos.